Let’s face it, you may have a beautiful desk, color-coded planner, and pristine car, but chances are there is a disaster hidden where most people are unlikely to see it: your email inbox. At In Order To Succeed, we believe that email organization boosts productivity, eliminates stress, and makes for a happier, healthier you. Start applying our tips for email organization and watch how quickly you start to feel more in control of your small business.
The Overflowing Inbox
Email. Some years ago it was primarily used as a go to method reserved for work communications. For most of us, the daily information flood of sales notices, social media updates, newsletters, and marketing emails now make up a significant portion of our inboxes and result in serious lack of email organization. It can get out of control very quickly with messages going unread, not deleted, and haphazardly marked and tagged. The easiest way to get control of your email and begin working toward achieving the elusive inbox “zero”, is to begin to simplify it.
1. Plan An Unsubscribing Session
One of the biggest problems with email is that we all sign up for mailing lists we’re just not interested in. Maybe it’s to get a coupon, maybe it’s because we enjoyed a few articles on a site. Whatever the reason, it’s time to kick those space-hogging subscriptions to the curb.
Open it and scan through just for subscriptions. Open each email and immediately scroll to the bottom where you’ll find the teeny font where you can unsubscribe and DO IT. If you haven’t opened and used the information in the subscription, you’re not going to. You don’t need to know that someone else pinned a recipe similar to yours or what the specials are at Target — there’s an app for that. Only keep subscriptions to the emails you open and actually read.
After your 90-minute unsubscribing marathon, make it a habit to open, read, and delete all of your subscription emails. Anything from yesterday that is unread tomorrow should be unsubscribed from going forward. Stay proactive in continuing your email organization. If you subscribe to something for a coupon, once it comes, IMMEDIATELY go into the email and unsubscribe.
2. Avoid Notification Emails
Many apps include an option for an email notification. But do you really need an email every time someone comments on a photo you liked on Facebook? No. So unless it’s something very important, like major breaking news, your bank, or a job search site, stop the notification emails.
3. Set up Filters
If you still want to receive and review the social network notifications, just not be notified every minute, create a email organization filter on your email platform to identify incoming messages that are generated by your network sites and give them a label. You can set up a rule to then have them redirected into an archive folder to review at a later time. This way, you can still keep up to date with your social news and events, but they are out of your inbox.
4. Stop BCC-ing Yourself
The last bit of email advice we have is to stop blind copying yourself. Your sent email file is a valuable thing but blind copies have big impacts on your inbox organization. Simply refrain from clearing out your sent mail so that you have your copy if needed. Added tip: don’t print emails. You don’t need hard copies of your emails — they take up space and add to the disorganization. Send important information into an organizational software like Neat to sort and categorize your documents without the added clutter.
5. Read, Delete, Repeat
Rather than keeping your email open all day or having notifications for it on your phone, only open your email twice a day: when you start working, and when you’re winding down. Like 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. if you work a traditional work day. In addition to being harder to manage, multi-tasking just doesn’t work and getting distracted by the constant beep and buzz of emails that likely don’t matter isn’t helping your productivity. If someone needs you immediately, they will call or text.
When you settle in to check your email, do so with intention — this is essential to email organization. Open your email inbox and nothing else. Skim and select those you know you won’t read and delete them without opening. Then start with your least recent email. Read it, do what you need to with pertinent information, and then delete it. Scared to delete? Here’s how to get comfortable with it:
- If an email has a meeting request that is linked to your calendar simply accept or decline. It’s now in your calendar or not.
- If an email has a meeting request that is not linked, assess whether the time/location works, put it in your calendar, respond and delete.
- Contact info? Add to your contacts and delete.
- Project info? If you have a hard file, print and place it in. If you are paperless, screenshot the necessary info and delete.
Once your inbox is empty, close your email and don’t look again until your day is unwinding. Eventually you’ll get into such a habit that it won’t bother you to see something at 5pm that came in at 1pm and wasn’t all that important. If you can’t act right away, create a follow up folder and go back to it within 48 hours.
For other ideas to achieve inbox zero, check out these helpful apps that can assist you and make the process a little less daunting. Here is a good list.
Contributor: Denise Caron-Quinn, In Order To Succeed® has a wealth of talent and experience in assisting clients get their digital spaces under control. Let us help you — organizing your email is the easiest place to start. Once you have that down you’ll be excited to see what else you can accomplish with that newfound time.
The SmallBizRising Blog is designed to be an educational content hub pulling information, best practices and practical advice for the small business owner and features topics including accounting, marketing, technology and more. Be sure to subscribe to stay up to date with new content as it is posted. The blog was created by The Neat Company and receives contributed content from a group of contributing companies that provide technology, services and solutions to small businesses.